Gears of War

Microsoft had already established “Halo” as a must-own franchise for Xbox gamers but after that, there weren’t many exclusive franchises. It wasn’t until 2006 when developer Epic Games and publisher Microsoft Game Studios teamed up and released “Gears of War” for the Xbox 360. The third-person shooter would feature a mature theme while creating a new franchise that is still alive today.

Story:
Gears of War focuses on a group of four soldiers as they battle their way against the “Locust” a species of humanoid monsters that lived underground until “Emergence Day”. Taking place 14 years after that fateful day that the Locust came from the ground, the plot revolves around Marcus Fenix a hardened soldier who has recently been released from prison for the crime of abandoning his post to try and save his family.

Marcus and his pal Dom take on the mission of finding the “resonator” which is a mapping device that will map out the caverns underground where the Locust dwell. The mission isn’t easy as they continually run into resistance from the Locust army who are just as equipped with armor and guns as humans are. Eventually, Marcus and Dom find the resonator and set it off under the tunnels but the device fails to create useable data. The duo then heads to Marcus’ old family compound where it was discovered that Marcus’ father had already successfully mapped out the caverns in his hidden lab.

With the data in hand, Marcus and Dom are sent to activate a “Lightmass Bomb” to blow up all the underground caverns that house the Locust army. The pair hop on a train carrying the bomb and activate it while uploading the data of the caverns. They are met with heavy fire from one of the top Generals in the Locust army, General Raam who killed a few of their squadmates previously. Marcus and Dom kill Raam and set the Lightmass Bomb off in the tunnels destroying most of the Locust. After the dust settles, the Locust Queen is seen riding off on a creature and promising a retaliation.

Gameplay:
One thing that is always a plus in video games is the ability to play local co-op or split-screen. Gears of War offers this so my wife and I played together. I’m heavy on story elements so I was disappointed that there wasn’t an opening or explanation into what the heck was going on. We were thrown into the fire and I didn’t know if we were fighting an alien race or monsters.

Gears of War is a slow game, not in the pace of the action, but the actual movement of Marcus and Dom. Each soldier is very bulky and slow to move. There’s no sprint button which was badly needed. I’m used to playing quick shooters where I can run around and be elusive. There was an adjusting period but after a while, we learned to make the slowness work.

Another element that I disliked was the reloading mechanic. When you reload you will have a split-second to hit the trigger button for a smooth reload. If you miss it or ignore it then Marcus or Dom will take a few seconds longer to reload. This caused several deaths and was frustrating but after an hour or two, it became second-nature.

During the game, you occasionally will have help from two other squad members. I enjoyed the camaraderie with them but the AI was quite stupid as they continued to run out in front of danger resulting in deaths. When you or an AI “dies” you have time to rescue them by running up to their body and reviving them. Unfortunately, I was never saved by the AI and it was a one-way street. It would have been great if they could rescue me. You can take cover behind almost anything and it works well but when you have to run out and heal stupid AI it’s almost useless to stay behind anything. Sometimes I’d die because the healing mechanic was finicky. I’d be right next to their body and push the revive button but nothing would happen and then I’d take a bullet in the head. It became very frustrating and I hate to admit it but my wife and I turned the game on “casual” at some point during the third act. We tried to get past this part where Marcus and Dom fall down into a basement where a bunch of Locust swarms you. We tried it about 20 times before quitting for almost two months. My wife has very little patience in losing in video games… well she has very little patience in general so when she dies more than once she always wants to quit. It was good to take a break because after the two-month break we beat it on our first try. Funny how things like that work.

One thing that I did like was the generous checkpoints that happen about every five minutes. It was nice that if we died, we didn’t have to start too far away. Weapons in Gears of War are decent but not as good as the Halo inventory. The best gun is the “chainsaw” gun because it comes with a cool option of sawing the enemy in half if they get too close to you. I did like the sniper rifle too as it was very powerful and just about a guaranteed kill if you hit them in the head.

The game didn’t feel very climatic and killing General Raam was a piece of cake. I think Gears of War built a decent foundation and I’m looking forward to playing the others to see how they improved. It reminds me a little of the first Uncharted game as it was rough around the edges but good enough to earn sequels that blew it out of the water. Hopefully, Gears of War follows suit.

Memories:
I was first introduced to Gears of War by my wife who loves playing the horde mode. It’s pretty fun but I wanted to play the story mode so we started doing that. I do remember commercials of Gears of War 2 or 3 when I was in high school. It was a tremendous trailer but I kind of forgot about the series after that.

Any game that I get to play with my wife is a bonus so even though we didn’t enjoy Gears of War like I thought we would, it was nice to spend time with her. Although she was a huge ammo hog.

Overall:
Gears of War is rough around the edges like the characters that inhabit the game. It will take some time to get used to the slow mechanics and the reloading but it’s a solid experience that you can share with a friend. If you like blood, swearing, and big men in bigger armor then give Gears of War a shot. Just don’t expect much help from the AI.

Gears of War scores a 7.1 out of 10.

Do you remember when Gears Of War first came out? Who was your favorite squad member? What was your favorite gun? Mine was the Hammer of Dawn. Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!

If you’d like to own a copy of Gears of War, you can purchase a used copy of it for the Xbox 360 from eBay for $5.

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